Newcastle Eagles are sweating on an injury to key man Darius Defoe as they head to Sheffield hoping to wipe out memories of Friday night’s damaging Trophy exit.
Eagles were dumped out of the Trophy at the quarter-final stage by BBL leaders Worcester Wolves in a game that led to player-coach Fab Flournoy delivering some home truths to his beaten charges.
The Eagles now have two shots at silverware this season – in the league, where they narrowly trail Worcester, and in the notoriously difficult end-of-season play-offs. With a quick turnaround before they head to South Yorkshire this evening, there is no time for Flournoy’s men to lick their wounds.
Their cause may be harmed by the injury that Defoe picked up in the Worcester defeat – a groin problem that led to Flournoy taking him out of the game early and which has thrown his participation in tonight’s match into some doubt. On a brighter note, hamstring victim Paul Gause showed no ill-effects from his return to action on Friday.
“The biggest concern for us at the moment is Darius. He strained his groin in the Worcester game and one of the reasons for taking him out of the match so early was that he was hurt,” Flournoy revealed.
“We strapped him up to go out there later on so that makes me think it is not too serious but it could have been adrenaline. He hasn’t done anything for 48 hours and we’ll leave the call to the docs, but obviously we want him to be available for the Sheffield game.”
The Eagles were the BBL’s form team before Friday’s defeat and have an unbeaten league record since the turn of the year, but the Worcester loss emphasises how little there is between the four best teams in the league this season.
Newcastle have had to scrap to get back into the title race and go to Sheffield tonight to face a team that they have traded wins with in their two games this season. Flournoy is hoping for a response after the Worcester loss.
“We don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves. After the game there was a lot of things that I said and a lot of issues that we addressed,” he said.
“It wasn’t that I thought we weren’t ready, I just felt that for whatever reason we didn’t perform as consistently as we have been since the turn of the year – in fact, since the Cup final. I’m not taking anything away from Worcester, who played a really good game and deserved to win.
“It was only a couple of things. We let them get away from us on the three-point line. In the two months since the Cup we have only let that happen to us twice, but for eight minutes of the game they ran away from us which made the scoreline seem a lot worse than it actually was.”
There is no let-up for the Eagles this week. After their game at Sheffield tonight they have an immediate opportunity to gain revenge on Worcester at Sport Central on Friday in a game that has now taken on added significance.
“It’s a big week but there are no easy games this season for us now. We have an opportunity to do it and go and win the league but so do they,” he said.
“In fact, I think every team in the league will look at it and think they’ve got an opportunity now. Between ourselves and the other three in the top four at the moment, we all feel that we have our fate in our own hands.
“Every single one of the teams in the league has their destiny in their own hands with the exception of Birmingham and Surrey, and that is no disrespect to them. It is a big end to the season because the top four are fighting for the title but at the bottom of the BBL there are teams trying to fight to be in that top eight too.
“Every team in that bracket has the potential to be a play-off team. There are no easy games from here on in.”